The Nets start LaMarcus Aldridge on Blake Griffin


BOSTON – Steve Nash finally made the lineup change on Wednesday, with Nets fans supporting bench center Blake Griffin on behalf of LaMarcus Aldridge.

Nash showed his hand Monday night when he allowed Aldridge to open the third quarter in Cleveland. Two days later, Nash completed the move, replacing Griffin in the starting lineup.

It was the first start of the season for Aldridge, who admitted he was struggling to fit into the bench role. Griffin, meanwhile, has been on the lineup in every game this season – the first several on the power forward alongside Nick Claxton.

Griffin is averaging 5.5 points per game on .318 shooting, coming to Boston and struggling mightily, just .161 from depth. Nash is firmly convinced that Griffin will break his funk – but in the end, the fact that other teams don’t seem to share that view has led to the switch.

Nets fans are shouting to see LaMarcus Aldridge start with Blake Griffin.
Getty Images

The Nets are playing without Kyrie Irving and shooter Joe Harris. And as Griffin got a good look and lost him consistently, opponents started to shrink him and closed the lane against Kevin Durant and James Harden. This caused Nash to pull against the Cavs in the second half.

“That’s definitely part of it,” Nash said. “Our gap has struggled at times and our pace has been slightly hurt. So we try to find different combinations of work and style of play. Push towards identification. We’re not just an iso and slow playing team because we don’t have a ton of shooting.

“So if we’re going to play against Load Defense, your name is going to be hard for either Kevin Durant or James Harden. It’s hard to go one-to-two, one-to-three with that picture. We need to play snap, move defense, move help and attack. That’s why we’re still working and trying to get there. And that is a mark and purpose that will take us a long time to reach. But we are showing signs and we are improving and we are enjoying it.

Aldridge averaged 13.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for Boston – and he’s been strong all season, pouring in 20 points on .571 shooting and 7.7 boards on his last three coming Wednesday night. And his automatic midrange jumper helps in the floor space, which now needs to be played without Harris and Irving.

“He brings a different dynamic to his team. He’s a veteran he trusts. I know Kevin and James, they’re hiring him to get him there and bring him back, so he’s doing a good job,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who was a Nets assistant last season. The effect is night and day when they score and play, and they did it against Cleveland. And I see his role growing longer.

Brooklyn is 10-1 when Aldridge breaks down two figures, but he is only 2-4 when playing and holding to single digits. Moving him to the starting squad is sure to deplete the bench’s scoring, which will help them break their slow start cycle and make life easier on Durant and Harden.

“The other coaches were using their big men to help out too much from the penetrators, so when we got that corner space, the ‘L’ was able to knock it down,” Durant said. “They feel less comfortable opening up to help them. They’re taking advantage of those opportunities.”

Aldridge came to Boston on a .614 (43-70) shooting from the midrange. He finished fifth last season and scored 20,000 points in midrange. That should mesh well with Durant and Harden.

“I’m just trying to help out there, trying to hit shots,” Aldridge said. “Hopefully it (Kevin) and James will open the floor to try to get to the rim.”

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